Law enforcement training instructor takes stand in day 2 of Coley Johnson trial

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The trial of James Coley Johnson, a Wilmington police officer accused of using excessive force, continued Wednesday with the testimony of a subject control and arrest training officer.

Prosecutors called Officer John Combs to the stand. He said he is a Fayetteville Police Officer and has been training officers on how to subdue a suspect 17 years.

Combs said after reviewing the video of the alleged victim Tyrell Rivers’ 2014 arrest he was able to make some opinions. The defense is arguing Johnson was using pressure point control techniques during the arrest. Combs said based on where Johnson’s hands were on Rivers he doesn’t think he was trying to do a pressure point control technique.

“It did not appear to be a pressure point control tactic,” said Combs. “Looks like the defendant’s hand is wrapping around the individual’s neck.”

Combs said what Corporal Johnson did was called a “C Clamp” grip. In court Combs reenacted what this type of grip look liked on himself by making a “c-shape” with his hands and grabbing his own neck.  He said this is a type of grip used for control. He said he doesn’t recommend using those types of grips.

“We typically stay away from those techniques,” said Combs.

Combs said since Rivers was handcuffed in the car more forceful arrest techniques weren’t needed.

He also said Johnson didn’t appear to be trying to deescalate the situation referring to the time after Rivers was in the car and began kicking the car door.  Combs said he heard in the video Johnson threaten to “bust him in the head” and said “do you wanna die in my back seat?”. Combs said in his opinion an officer should use their arrest techniques along with giving direct verbal commands. Combs said that wasn’t done properly in this case.

Johnson’s defense attorney Michael McGuinness will have his chance to cross-examine Combs Thursday morning.



Categories: Local, New Hanover

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